Jackie Gingrich Cushman


While hard work gets us ahead, there appear to be limits. It’s often the times of rest and recovery that provide us with the energy we need to work hard.  In today’s ultra-connected worlds of Blackberrys, iPhones, e-mail and Twitter (an internet service that allows people to constantly text where they are and what they are doing to the universe at large or a group of friends) – it is often hard to get even a few moments to oneself. 

The constant feeling of connectedness and activity might lead some people to become anxious and stressed.  Possibly it is the constancy of the connectedness rather than the connectedness itself that is making the difference. 

A February 5 news release from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago cited a study by Dante Chialvo, Professor in the Department of Physiology, on a related topic: “People with unrelenting pain don't only suffer from the nonstop sensation of throbbing pain. They also have trouble sleeping, are often depressed, anxious and even have difficulty making simple decisions.” 

The study, Published in the Journal of Neuroscience on February 6, indicates that in a “healthy” brain, there is a state of equilibrium between the different regions in the brain, with regions quieting down when others are active.  However, for those in chronic pain, a front region of the cortex mostly associated with emotion “never shuts up,” according to Chialvo, the lead author of the study.

"The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should," Chialvo said. The fifteen people with chronic back pain in the study had permanent activity in the front cortex of the brain, rather than the equilibrium associated with “the resting state network of the brain,” he said.

This constant state of being on the go could cause permanent changes in the brain. Chialvo noted. "We know when neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons and or even die because they can't sustain high activity for so long," he explained. 

Chialvo went on to note the impact that this permanent change in wiring might have on a chronic patient’s daily activity, saying it "may make it harder for you to make a decision or be in a good mood to get up in the morning. It could be that pain produces depression and the other reported abnormalities because it disturbs the balance of the brain as a whole." 

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.